Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

April 15, 2010

The Basics of Documenting A Week In Your Life

Img_3092 From my 2008 Week In The Life Album.

Next week, from Monday through Sunday, I will be documenting a week in my life with photos + words and I invite you to play along. (You could even begin today or tomorrow if you wanted – there is no reason it has to be Monday through Sunday vs. Saturday through Friday.)

This is a creative adventure. It requires little more than a camera and a willingness to pay attention and gather up stuff from your daily life.

Even if you have never scrapbooked before you can do this project.

This will be a pared down project from the one I have taught previously. Right now I am most interested in the photos and the words and that is where my focus will be throughout the week.

Some of you out there may be thinking: my life is boring or I do the same thing everyday or what story do I have to tell? As with many of the projects I have created, the documentation process is just as (and maybe more) important than the creative process of actually putting the album together. Most likely you will learn something about yourself over the course of this project. I learn something new every time.

AWITLmondayopen2007 From my 2007 Week In The Life album.


TAKE PHOTOS. Commit to keeping your camera with you throughout the day. Capture everything. Capture things that may seem silly or dumb. Capture the normal. Capture little things. Capture your environment. Here’s a couple questions I ask myself or I keep in mind as I am going about this project: what’s my daily routine, where did I go, who did I see, what do I do, what does the inside of my home look like, where do I spend the most time, etc. Capture stuff that you use everyday: your computer, a coffee mug, a favorite pair of shoes, a book, etc. Make sure to take a photo of yourself each day. See the list of possible photos below.

UPLOAD PHOTOS. Take a bit of time each evening to upload your photos for the day. You can use this time to eliminate duplicate shots and if you are really on top of things you could print them out or upload them to your favorite developer to have them ready to create with the following week.

DESIGNATE A PLACE FOR NOTES. Have a notebook or a couple sheets of paper set aside to jot down notes, stories, things to remember about each day. Don’t make this complicated. Don’t run out and buy a new notebook. The back of some junk letters, the leftover pages in a journal you have always meant to get around to, etc. You simply need somewhere to write down notes over the course of the day.

TAKE NOTES. Once you set up something to write on, do the writing. What should you write? Thoughts you have during the day, things your kids or your boss or your partner say, things you notice (simple and profound), what you ate, etc. Go for the basics. These notes will be transferred into your album when the time comes. See more about recording the story under the category heading below.

DESIGNATE A PLACE TO STORE LIFE-STUFF. Part of the process is collecting bits and pieces of your life over the course of the week. For this I recommend setting up an envelope or folder for each day. You may use some of this stuff and you may not. I tend to keep things like receipts, handwritten notes, etc. These will be companions to your photos + words.

WITL2006 From my 2006 Week In The Life album.


- think about the most basic things/the real life things that you see everyday: those things that are so much a part of what you do each day that they simply blend into the blur of images
- chores
- loves
- dishes
- food you cook
- food you eat
- driving to work
- driving your kids to school/kids at the bus stop
- computer
- what you do for work
- looking down at your shoes
- your front door
- thermometer/temperature outside
- gas prices
- the grocery store/your grocery cart/bags of groceries
- the mess
- piles of stuff
- the funny face your kid is making/funny things they are saying
- laundry
- your child’s room, toys, favorite books, etc.
- document the imperfect normalness of your existence

Check out a couple articles I wrote for my Everyday Life photobook at Shutterfly (these definitely apply to this project):
Listof Everyday Photos
8 Techniques for Choosing or Taking Photos

For more everyday life photo ideas check out these Flickr groups:
My Everyday Life
Corners Of My Home
The New Domesticity
Self Portrait Tuesday

WeekInTheLifeJournalCardImage My 2010 journaling/category cards.

To prepare for my journaling in the past I have designated categories: food, gratitude, work, stuff, etc. You can totally implement something like this for yourself – it helps keep you focused on what you need to document in a written format – or you can be more free-flowing.

This year I made up journal cards with a bunch of categories to fit in the sleeves of the baseball card page protectors. The journal card package includes png, psd, and a pdf file for easy printing.

Just make sure you write something as you go along. It is way too hard to try to remember what the heck happened on a specific even a few days later.


(1) This is not a class. I do not have a finished project to show you or specific instructions to follow. I will be working alongside and adjusting and going with the flow from Monday through Sunday. It’s a journey we can embark on together. One of the big reasons I am doing this on my blog is so that I will actually do the project. You are making me accountable. This project is worth all the effort you will put into it…but it does take work.

(2) This does not have to be a 12×12 album. It can be smaller or larger. You can include tons of stuff or just photos + words. Part of the process will be figuring out how to showcase your photos + stuff. One of the things I am excited about in relation to sharing this journey is the variety of different albums that will result. Part of what I will be thinking about as I go along next week is how I want to put the album together. I am envisioning a hybrid combination of paper and digital elements. Other than that I will be using things I have on hand here at home.

(3) Take this one day at a time. If you take a ton of photos on Monday and only a couple on Tuesday – no big deal. Let’s get rid of that pressure before we even begin.

(4) Begin with the end in mind. If you are one of those people that needs to know where you are headed (as in you need to know what your album is going to look like) before you gather content, I suggest spending some time thinking about what you want your album to look like this weekend.

I’ve spent time this week planning & thinking about how I want to put my album together and will share more of that with you tomorrow. A new 12×12 digital layered template album as well as hybrid pieces I am using for my week is also available.

(5) Special giveaway. I’m excited to announce that there will be a big giveaway going on next week with a really cool group of sponsors. Look for more information on Monday.


A complete list of posts related to the week in the life project can be found here.


  • 1.
    Cara said…

    Can’t wait to do this again! My life is so different each time I capture the week. The first time it was just me + my husband, last time I was pregnant, and this time we have a 3 month old at home! I’m so glad I have documented/am documenting each different stage.

  • 2.
    Molly Irwin said…

    cool. I’m excited to start. I set up a template to drop photos in place, but feel like it needs a bit more tweaking. thanks for the prompt, Ali.

  • 3.
    Kristen said…

    Love this idea–retweeted it, girl!

  • 4.
    {vicki} said…

    I’ve got everything set up and ready to go. I am definately keeping it very simple this go round.

  • 5.
    Sabrina said…

    I’m in! For the first time I’m making the commitment and have a few things ready to go. Have really enjoyed and APPRECIATED the notes, ideas, and encouragement these last few weeks. Can’t wait to get started – maybe I’ll begin today!!

  • 6.
    Cherri Engle said…

    I have followed you on this project a few times but have never thought I had a ‘busy’ enough to be worth documenting. However, I have decided to just take the plunge. Like you said, it is more about documenting the ‘everyday stuff’. I am going to do this with you all next week. I am excited about the creative process of doing something different and learning to ‘look’ at the things we tend to overlook and take for granted. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • 7.
    Lynsey said…

    This is a very important time in my life document. Even though I think I’m boring, the truth is, my children will someday treasure this glimpse into my life right now: 9 months into our marriage, my husband is beginning his fourth year at a regional airline, I’m unemployed, I’m still learning our way around my new home in Georgia after moving from North Dakota when we got married last summer, and we’re in our first married home. I’ve heard stories about this time in my parents’ lives, but never seen photos of it. I think my future kids will be fascinated by this, even if I find it mundane.

  • 8.
    Ali Edwards said…

    Absolutely Lynsey. Great perspective.

  • 9.
    Cheri said…

    Can we get the code for the countdown image to include on our blogs?

  • 10.
    Deb said…

    Love this idea Ali ~ Thank you. I turned 50 in January and have been creating & celebrating this milestone birthday … this is perfect ♥

  • 11.
    Carolyn E said…

    I took Ali’s CKU album class in 2008 and I just love my album! I did a week when it was just my son and I, while my husband was deployed, I would love to do one with him now home…but I do have a question. How do we incorporate this if we are already documenting our everyday with Project Life?

  • 12.
    Theresa Grdina said…

    There is so much buzz about this on the blogs I read that I decided to jump on board….I can’t wait to get started!

  • 13.
    amy tangerine said…

    so inspiring on so many levels. ready to jump in. thanks!!

  • 14.
    Jen LoSchiavo said…

    So VERY excited to be doing this again with you, Ali! I took your class at CKU Anaheim in 2007; first CKU, first time meeting you – and it is still my family’s favorite album! Our lives have changed dramatically through divorce, but we are happier now more than ever. It will be wonderful to show my children the joy we have ….

  • 15.
    Beverly said…

    I am so looking forward to doing this. I work from home with my husband, children have flown the nest, no grand children yet so it’ll be interesting to see how I document a week.

  • 16.
    Erin said…

    Hi Ali,
    Thanks for motivating me to do this again! I still LOVE my album from CKU 2006, and although I’ve dreamed of doing this again, I never have! I’m also excited that the week you chose includes my son’s second birthday. What a great way to capture all of the little things leading up to his special day.
    Thanks again…and Good luck

  • 17.
    Nathalie said…

    Thank you for actually taking some of the pressure off!!! :D

  • 18.
    Mrs. V said…

    This sounds great. I am also going to save this link because I am thinking this would be a great way to re-launch my writer’s workshop next year at the start of the year. 2 of my 3 classes will be returning students. I will use this with at least one class. I know that they will love the picture/writing combo, as well as a new way to look at the slice of life stories that they are used to from this year.

  • 19.
    Ali Edwards said…

    This is a more in-depth daily look over the course of seven days compared to Project Life. Capture Life, over the course of the year, will give you an awesome look at a year in your life. This album gives a more detailed look into the 24 hours of your life from a Monday through Sunday.
    Consider picking some things to document/track/record for the week that you have only just touched on in your Project Life album.

  • 20.
    Kristyn G said…

    Will the hybrid/digital items (not the full album) be available in 8.5×11 in size like last time?
    I pulled out my 2008 album last night and our son (2 yrs old now, he was 9 months when I did the project) had a great time flipping through the album and pointing out everyone in the pictures and what we were doing. It was fun to see all the bottles and jars of baby food again! Yep, that’s what this whole process is about…

  • 21.
    Natalie said…

    I am so excited for this Project! I love the fact that you are going to sell some of your ideas on Designer Digitalis. I was wondering if you would post your cards that you did for your project 365 you made in Adobe Illustrator as well for sale? I would REALLY love to buy those cards as well. Just a thought! Thanks for all your wonderful ideas and inspiration!

  • 22.

    I am really excited to join in this year after doing this before in 2008. A lot has changed, and even though my week looks pretty routine-esque so far, it is definitely different from last time I documented it. Plus, the stuff / writing from 2008 actually never found a home and is still in the envelopes I put it in, so my goal is to finish it up and give it a space alongside this year’s documentation.
    … I ordered my first 12×12 album for this project and it is on it’ way! This feels so, so great.

  • 23.
    linda said…

    Thanks for adding more details and helping with preparation and organization. This is my first time participating, so I’m starting small to make sure I can get through it :) Thanks for taking so many of us along with the ride…I think it’s fantastic to be able to look into a week of your life year after year, to see the change, the learnings, etc…

  • 24.
    Erin M said…

    Very excited to get started!
    I actually pulled out my WIL album from Oct. 2008 that is 90% finished. I really want to put the finishing touches on this project so that I can concentrate 100% on next week. It’s been a great reminder of the words + photos that I’d like to collect again.

  • 25.
    Afusomax said…

    Did anybody else see the first photo & think — “I didn’t know Ali was expecting again!”. Then I looked at the date. 2008. heeeehheeeeee

  • 26.
    Ali Edwards said…

    Yes Kristyn – I am doing my album 8.5×11 with hybrid elements (cards, accents, etc) and those will be available on Saturday. I am not using a full overlay like I did last time – I will show my design plan in a tomorrow’s post :) . Thanks for your interest!

  • 27.
    Shelly K said…

    I am really wanting to do this, this year!
    I can’t wait to stretch myself and capture our life…everyone’s turns out so amazing…I need that for my family! Thanks for your inspiration!!

  • 28.
    Tanya Gilmartin said…

    I was not going to do this project this year, but Ali, you have given me the kick in the butt that I needed. I did this with you in 2008,and I thought there was no point, since everything is the same old, same old. When I took it off the shelf to look at, I see so much has changed- my haircolor, this kids look so young, we put our backsplash up since then, a new dishwasher. It’s day to day living, but things do change, and are worth documenting.
    I wish I could see a week in our life from when I was a kid.
    Pictures of my 2008 week are on my blog;
    As usual, thanks for the inspiration, Ali!

  • 29.
    Carolyn E said…

    Good point.
    I just looked at my last Week In The Life album (it was for 07 not 08!) and it is definitely a more in-depth look into my day than what I am recording for Project Life.
    I will be thinking about how I want to do this. And I look forward to your post tomorrow.
    Thanks Ali!

  • 30.
    Sarah said…

    I am looking forward to participating for the first time. Hoping for a week of good health and good weather, as it would be NO FUN to document Infant Tylenol and being housebound with a sick kid or days of rain. Busy mom of a (2-month walking veteran) 10.5 month old busy baby boy… hope to find some time to do this project. I think it will be good to document our lives… to see how much they change from year-to-year.

  • 31.
    Carole Hepburn said…

    CKU Nashville 2007 – loved your class !!! Took a look at my album – such fun !!! I think I will do another 12 x 12 album this time….some things will be the same but I have many new things in my life – cna’t wait !!!

  • 32.
    Annika said…

    I started yesterday.
    I decided to do this (FIRST TIME) all digitally!
    When our daughter is born I am going to print the collected “weeks” in a photo book, and then continue with her first half year or so.
    I also chose to use the same Layout for every week, only little details are changeable.
    I am really looking forward to seeing the result!
    Thanks for the push, Ali!

  • 33.
    Helen said…

    I can’t wait to make a start on this. Will be great this year as we’ve a new addition to the household (3 month old baby girl!) so it’ll be a brilliant little book to look back on in years to come!
    Also, wanted to say that I’m planning on joining in Don Miller’s ‘What if’ challenge – here – as part of this album – making myself accountable by posing myself these questions now and then seeing what results I manage by this time next year. It’ll add an interesting dimension to both this years album and next years and, I hope, will inspire my children who, I hope, will read the album in years to come….
    Just off to blog the idea now…..

  • 34.
    Jo said…

    I’m really looking forward to doing this project again this year and hopefully keeping on top of it. I joined in back in Oct 2008 and didn’t finish the album, even though I’d taken all the photos and notes. I made myself finish it a couple of weeks ago and it’s great to look back on. I can now participate this year without the guilt of that unfinished project hanging over me. Looking forward to embarking on it all again next week.

  • 35.
    Sylvia said…

    Can’t wait to start!!!! I am doing this for the first time and I am looking so forward to it! Thanks so much for all the inspiration here, Ali!

  • 36.
    Yolanda said…

    I am excited to do this for the first time, and to break free from my digital comfort zone by collecting my daily ephemera and putting it to good use in an album. There is also a lot of fear coming up as I think about the hours I spend each day with a laptop on my lap, my child watching movies, the fact that my carpets need cleaning. It’s all that internal dialogue of being not good enough, important enough, interesting enough, or creative enough to do this in an “interesting” way. And I see no better way to hush those voices, than to pick up my camera next week and show them how wrong they are.

  • 37.

    woot-woot! getting excited. i’m gonna soak it all in these next few weeks and then decide which week to do my story. i know it should be spontaneous but i kinda want to plan it during a week when i know we’ll be doing something fun (like camping) on the weekend at least.

  • 38.
    Ali Edwards said…

    Perfectly said Yolanda.

  • 39.
    Ali Edwards said…

    Great link Helen. He is so awesome.

  • 40.
    Crystal said…

    I have followed along before but this time I’m playing along! I’m thinking things through today and will gather supplies this weekend. Can’t wait.

  • 41.
    Colleen Sheehy said…

    Will all of the downloads be for digi scraping? Will there be anything I can just print and use straight on my pages?

  • 42.
    Tanya Watson said…

    just sitting here and reading your blog and my son (2 years old) is looking through my project life album and it makes me realize as he tries to say names of people he sees in the photos (hes seeing a speech language therapist – due to lack of talking), it makes me realize how import this week in a life album will be for him and it will be like a learning tool for him seeing our every day life and helping him teach what these are like him and his sister eating breakfast, him sleeping, bathing etc etc etc…..he loves going through any of my scrapbooking album but i really think this will be a key album to help him talk some more…thank you ali edwards :)

  • 43.
    Terri Q said…

    I love this idea primarily because it is a commitment to tell the story of an ordinary week in my ordinary life – a story that may be more meaningful to my almost 3-year-old granddaughter (and grandchild coming in November) than all the highlight stories they hear over and over and learn to expect. Yet even as I write this I realize the week you have chosen is not a completely ordinary week in my life because I’ll be celebrating my granddaughter’s third birthday on April 20 and going to her party on April 25. How special this could be to her – documenting how her Ammie spends her birthday WEEK – the time away from her, the “getting ready” for the big event prep days. Seeing it from this POV, can I pass on doing something so special? NOT A CHANCE! I have my FOCUS (my 2010 word). Thanks for the inspiration!

  • 44.
    Kate said…

    I am doing Project 365 with a Project Life kit this year and actually doing it. So this next week will just be an continuation of this for me. I will say what has really helped is writing in a journal every day what we do. I take about 20-30 minutes before I go to bed every day and write down what happened that day. Who we saw, what we did, just the mundane stuff, whatever it is. Remember that most cell phones have cameras so don’t be afraid to use that if you forgot your “real” camera and think of something that you would like to take a picture of. And hold onto those bits of ephemera, it is a blast to put those into pockets somewhere and can be used instead of a photo if you want. Good luck everyone and I encourage you to do this, if only for a week. I am loving having every day recorded so far for this year!

  • 45.
    Ann-Marie said…

    Oh my goodness! So excited!

  • 46.
    Ali Edwards said…

    Absolutely – the packages include PDF files for printing (that’s what I did for mine). More on that tomorrow.

  • 47.
    Debbie McIntyre said…

    Love when you document your week! I’m with you this time.

  • 48.
    heidig said…

    Just wondering….I know you’re doing Project Life and I’m not sure how documenting this one week will be different, or more in depth, than Project Life is already. Any thoughts on this? Thanks.

  • 49.
    Christene said…

    Ali, you have done a great job of pumping us all up! I am so excited to do this project that I am trying to think of a way to do a scaled-down version with my class. I spend half days with first graders and I KNOW the teacher will give me the green light if I can make it doable for them. I’m thinking more along the lines of ‘day in the life of a first grader,’ and am trying to break it down into categories for them: school, home, friends, family, etc. This is perfect timing as we approach the end of the school year, too.
    Thanks again for all your inspiration and for the guest posts this week. Aby and Wendy gave a lot of great ideas.

  • 50.
    rene Jantzi said…

    Sounds like many, many people are excited about embarking on this adventure. I am a first-timer and really looking forward to it.
    I participated in a “virtual bible study” on a blog recently and they called for a blog roll. Participants posted their name, decade of age, and city/state or country. Do you know how many people signed up? – a little over 6,000! It was awesome. This reminds me of that :)

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